Category Archives: Food-borne Infections

Pollution halts Vaughn Bay shellfish harvest: 14 other areas threatened

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Pollution to close shellfish harvest in one area; 14 others listed as threatened
Fecal bacteria levels force new restrictions to protect shellfish consumers

From the Washington State Department of health:

Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!OLYMPIA — The state Department of Health has closed harvesting in part of Vaughn Bay in Pierce County due to high levels of fecal bacteria. Health officials also identified 14 more of Washington’s 101 commercial shellfish growing areas that could be closed in the future if fecal pollution continues to get worse.

“The good news is that the pollution problems in almost all these areas can be found and fixed,” said Bob Woolrich, Growing Area section manager. “There have been many successful pollution correction projects using partnerships with local and state agencies, Tribes, and others.”

The agency shellfish program evaluates the state’s shellfish growing areas every year to see if water quality is approaching unsafe limits. If so, areas are listed as “threatened” with closure.

Shellfish harvesting areas threatened with closure include:

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Keep germs off the guest list at holiday meals

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Uncooked turkey in a pot

Keep all your guests healthy by following these food safety tips from the Snohomish Health District.

Proper planning.

Make sure your kitchen has everything you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for cooling and storage, paper towels and soap.

Store foods in the refrigerator at 41°F or below or in the freezer at 0°F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer.

Safe shopping. 

At the grocery store, bag raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don’t buy bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Buy cold foods last and bring foods directly home from the store.

Always refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours. Thaw frozen turkey in the refrigerator or under cold-running water. Never defrost the turkey at room temperature.

Working in the kitchen. 

Got extra helpers in the kitchen? Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food, visiting the restroom, or changing a baby’s diapers. Keep all work surfaces sanitized, too. Spray or wipe on a solution of 1 tsp of unscented bleach per gallon of cold water.

When baking holiday treats, remember that no one should eat raw cookie dough or brownie batter containing raw eggs. Make eggnog with pasteurized eggs and pasteurized milk, or simply buy it ready-made with those ingredients.

Adding a nip of brandy or whiskey will not kill the germs. When making homemade eggnog, be sure to cook the mixture to 165°F, then refrigerate.

Cook. 

Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the

harmful bacteria that cause illness. Cook your turkey to a minimum of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, including the stuffing.

The healthiest method is to prepare and cook the stuffing separately – outside the bird. Test the bird’s temp in the thickest part of the thigh, the breast, and the inside. Don’t let the tip of the thermometer rest against bone.

Potluck contributions. 

Remember to keep hot foods hot (135°F or higher) and cold foods cold (41°F or below). To help keep foods hot wrap dishes in foil, cover them in heavy towels, or put them in insulated containers designed to keep food hot.

For cold foods, put them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs, or use an insulated container with a cold pack so they remain at 41°F or lower, especially if traveling for more than half an hour.

Buffet, anyone? 

If you set up food in a buffet line, take care to put spoons in each dish for self-service, and assist children in filling their plates. No fingers allowed!

Wrap it up! 

Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers and label with the date it was prepared. Reheat leftovers to 165°F.

Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 41°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of an at-home food-borne illness.

Eat cooked turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days and gravy in 1-2 days. Cooked turkey keeps up to 4 months in the freezer. Reheat leftovers to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, and bring gravy and sauces to a boil before serving. Microwaved leftovers shouldn’t have cold spots (bacteria can survive). Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.

Following these food safety steps at your house will make the meal a happy memory for everyone. Happy, healthy holidays from the Snohomish Health District!

Additional resources:

Free kit

The Holiday Food Safety Success Kit at www.holidayfoodsafety.org provides food safety advice and meal planning in one convenient location.

The kit includes information on purchasing, thawing and cooking a turkey; a holiday planner with menus, timelines, and shopping lists; and dozens of delicious (and food-safe) recipes. ]

The kit also has arts and crafts activities and downloads for kids so they can join the holiday fun.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

1-888-SAFEFOOD: For questions about safe handling of the many foods that go into a delicious holiday meal, including eggs, dairy, fresh produce and seafood.

Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaNothing can ruin a party quite like food poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 31 pathogens known to cause food-borne illness.

Every year there are an estimated 48 million cases of illness, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States due to food-borne diseases.

Typical symptoms of food-borne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps which can start hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.

The symptoms usually are not long-lasting in healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment.

But food-borne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk such as infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with HIV/AIDS, cancer or any condition or medication that weakens the immune system.

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Federal shutdown alarms state health officials

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Photo: James Gathany/CDC

Photo: James Gathany/CDC

By Melissa Maynard
StatelineStaff Writer

This week more than 11,000 U.S. Muslims are expected to join millions of other pilgrims in Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. When the Americans return home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health departments will be watching for any sign of the MERS virus that has caused severe acute respiratory illness in 140 people since 2012, killing about half of them.

But because of the shutdown of the federal government, about 9,000 of the CDC’s 15,000 workers have been furloughed. James Blumenstock, chief of public health practice for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said states are concerned that the absence of those workers might slow down identification and response to MERS cases if the virus spreads to the U.S.

Since the shutdown, the CDC’s bi-weekly conference calls with state health officials to share new information about MERS and other emerging global threats have stopped, Blumenstock said. “Since Oct. 1, we have not scheduled one or had the opportunity to talk to anyone about scheduling the next one.”

MERS is just one of many possible public health risks state health officials are worried about handling without the full support of the CDC and other federal agencies. Another big one within U.S. borders is the flu season that began Oct. 1.

In a Wednesday conference call with state health officials from across the country, CDC Director Tom Frieden assured states that the agency would be available to assist in emergency situations, but acknowledged that its response might be slower because of the shutdown.

“We have been told that that if we needed support for a large-scale event, it would require pulling staff back in, and that the response time could be delayed,” said Wendy Braund, Wyoming’s state health officer. “That is a very real concern to us.”

CDC in the States

States rely on the CDC to step in when outbreaks cross state lines and for technical support and lab testing when unusual situations arise. The federal agency also helps fund and staff a range of programs, embedding its own experts in state health agencies to help with a range of programs from immunizations to AIDS prevention. Many of these people have been furloughed.

Also, certain public health functions rely heavily on federal grants, which will become more critical if the shutdown continues. Hawaii State Epidemiologist Sarah Park was handling multiple investigations when she learned that her work may be interrupted because her division gets 90 percent of its money from the federal government.

“Basically, toward the end of last week, it was realized that … the state had only sufficient federal funds drawn down to make the Oct 5th payroll,” she said in an email.

“If the federal shutdown doesn’t resolve soon,” she said, “we could be facing a major crisis whether because staff have to be laid off and/or because we aren’t able to place vaccine orders or have them completed because the federal system is down.”

CDC officials acknowledged the challenges the shutdown has created for its partners at the state level. “We’re actually really concerned about what is happening with the states, and down the road if this continues,” said John O’Connor of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

Emergency Response

The CDC can call back employees to respond to emergencies, according to Barbara Reynolds, a CDC crisis communication specialist. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday issued a public health alert for an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms in California.

The outbreak has sickened 278 consumers in 17 states. In response, the CDC called back two-thirds of the 30-person team that tracks foodborne illnesses. It has updated its website with details of its ongoing investigation into the outbreak, including a map detailing cases by state.

Still, Reynolds acknowledged it’s not the same as when the CDC is fully functioning. “We have 9,000 people from CDC furloughed, which means 9,000 fewer people to answer the phones and take phone calls from people in state agencies,” she  said. “Some of that collaboration is just gone right now.”

In Oregon, eight salmonella cases have been linked to the outbreak. Katrina Hedberg, the state’s chief epidemiologist and health officer, said the CDC’s national databases connected the salmonella strain to Foster Farms based on evidence from cases in other states. “Looking at our Oregon cases, it wouldn’t be obvious that they were linked,” she said.

But the state received less information than it would have from a fully functioning CDC. “Normally we’d be hearing about this before, and we’d be having conference calls beforehand,” she said. Instead, Hedberg said the general public learned about the outbreak only shortly after she and her staff did – and from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service rather than the CDC.

Flu Season

One of the most significant looming public health threats is the flu. State health officials are concerned about how the shutdown will affect their ability to fight its spread, since they rely on the CDC to track and monitor cases to better prepare their public health response.

Michael Cooper, Alaska’s deputy state epidemiologist, said his department has received “a flurry of emails about how CDC influenza monitoring and surveillance staff would be at minimal levels and online applications might not be functional for recording data that demonstrates national/state activity related to influenza.”

Blumenstock, of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said there are critical flu-related functions the CDC cannot currently perform because of the shutdown.

For example, at this point in the season, the CDC typically tests early flu strains to see how well they match with the seasonal vaccine. That information gives public health officials important clues about what to expect from flu season and how to adjust their strategies.

The CDC also conducts an annual public awareness campaign, tests early cases of the flu to determine resistance to antivirals and provides regular surveillance information to states.

Much of that assistance simply isn’t happening, Blumenstock said. “Depending on how bad flu season turns out to be, that could provide increased risk of illness or death if CDC doesn’t get back in business.”

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Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Center on the States that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.

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Shellfish infections running double summer average in King County

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girl-eating-oysters

Girl eating oysters – Jan Steen 1668

A saltwater bacteria has sickened more than twice the number of people in King County this summer than typically is reported during this period – leading health officials to warn of the dangers of eating raw or undercooked shellfish.

During July, there were 13 confirmed or probable cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection in King County, compared to an average of four reported in that month in recent years.

Since the beginning of August, an additional eight cases have been confirmed, while typically King County would see six for the entire month.

“This is probably the tip of the iceberg. For every case that is reported, an estimated 142 additional cases go unreported,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease for Public Health–Seattle & King County.

People typically get vibriosis from eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters, that have Vibrio bacteria in them.

Those with pre-existing medical conditions or who take antacids regularly are at higher risk for illness from Vibrio infection.

Cooking shellfish until the shells just open is not enough to kill Vibrio bacteria. Shellfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F for at least 15 seconds.

Symptoms of Vibrio infection can include moderate to severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and headache.  Vibrio bacteria also can cause a skin infection when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater.

“We have warnings on menus about the risks of eating raw shellfish, but people might not always get the message or know that the risks are much higher this time of year,” Duchin said.

Vibrio bacteria occur naturally in marine waters, and they grow more rapidly during the warm months.  That’s why Vibrio levels in shellfish increase during the summer, and infections in humans normally peak in late summer. It’s possible that the early warm streak in July has led to a longer period of Vibrio presence in local waters. Once water temperatures begin to cool in October, the bacteria decline.

The worst outbreak in recent years came in 2006, when Washington had 80 lab-confirmed Vibrio cases and King County had 36 confirmed cases.

In 2012, King County had 26 cases of vibriosis for the entire year; so far in 2013, 22 confirmed or probable cases have already been reported.

To prevent Vibrio infections:

a.      Thoroughly cook shellfish before eating

b.      Do not rinse cooked shellfish in seawater, which can re-contaminate them

c.      Keep raw or cooked shellfish well-refrigerated before serving

d.      Do not harvest shellfish from areas where harvesting has been closed

(see, http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Shellfish.aspx)

e.       Avoid swimming in warm seawater if you have open wounds.

 

For more information, see:

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Rise in illnesses due to eating raw or undercooked oysters

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Vibrio parahaemolyticus - Janice Carr/CDC

Vibrio parahaemolyticus – Janice Carr/CDC

Recent cases highlight need for awareness and prevention

More than 40 people across the state have gotten sick with vibriosis so far this year, mostly due to eating raw or undercooked oysters.

State health officials expect the number of illnesses to rise in the next few weeks due to projected warm temperatures and midday low tides.

The Department of Health recommends cooking all shellfish in the summer months to kill the Vibrio bacteria, making them safe to eat.

“We’ve had a warm summer, which increases the risk that eating raw oysters might make people sick,” said Jerrod Davis, director of the Office of Shellfish and Water Protection. “It’s much safer to eat cooked oysters, especially this time of year.”

Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria are found naturally in the environment; they thrive in warm temperatures.

When midday low tides coincide with warm weather, the bacteria can grow quickly, raising the risk of vibriosis illness among people who eat raw or undercooked oysters.

Vibriosis typically causes watery diarrhea, often along with nausea, stomach cramps, headache, vomiting, fever, and chills. Symptoms generally appear within 12 to 24 hours after eating infected shellfish.

Vibriosis is often mild to moderate, with symptoms lasting from two to five days. It can be life threatening to people with weak immune systems or chronic liver disease.

People who take antacids can also get extremely ill. People in these risk groups should avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish.

Recreational harvesters should take extra precautions when gathering oysters in the summer. Oysters should be put on ice or refrigerated as soon as possible after being collected. S

hellfish should be harvested as soon as the tide recedes, avoiding oysters that may have been exposed for unknown periods of time. Once collected, oysters should be cooked at 145° F for 15 seconds to destroy Vibrio bacteria.

Don’t rinse fully-cooked oysters with seawater; it can contaminate them.

The Department of Health has been sending notices to shellfish growers recommending extra precautions during periods of low midday tides and warm weather, and weekly lab test results showing the levels of Vibrio bacteria in growing areas.

A weekly report summarizing illnesses is also sent, allowing growers to make informed decisions about when and where to harvest safely.

Public health officials recently finalized a list of “best management practices” to help shellfish businesses operate using the best methods known for ensuring healthy shellfish harvesting.

Shellfish harvesting businesses have special control measures in place during the summer months to keep people who choose to eat raw oysters from getting sick.

When these measures are not enough to prevent illnesses, commercial harvest areas undergo more stringent measures or are closed.

The Department of Health closes commercial growing areas when Vibrio levels are high, or when there are four confirmed vibriosis illnesses within a 30-day period linked to commercially harvested oysters.

Currently, Hammersley Inlet and several parts of Hood Canal, including Dabob Bay and Quilcene Bay, are closed due to high Vibrio levels. Oakland Bay and Totten Inlet growing areas are also closed due to recent illnesses.

Before heading to the beach, people who gather their own shellfish should always check our shellfish safety website to find out if there are any health advisories or closures in effect for vibrio, pollution, biotoxins, or other health risks.

Current shellfish safety information is available on the agency’s Office of Shellfish and Water Protection website and from our toll-free hotline, 1-800-562-5632.

 

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Fair season is here: win the blue ribbon for health and safety

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Rooster looking through the wires of a cage

From the Washington State Department of Health

Hanging out with the goats, poultry, and cows can be the highlight of any trip to the local fair. Yet fair animals can also spread certain diseases.

“Going to see the animals at the fair is a treasured tradition for many families,” said Ron Wohrle, public health veterinarian for the Department of Health. “But even healthy animals can spread E. coli and Salmonella bacteria to people, which can make them sick. By following some basic safety tips you can enjoy the animals at the fair and stay healthy.”

Many kinds of animals can carry dangerous bacteria and viruses. The germs can be in their saliva, on their coats, and on surfaces contaminated by their waste. People can pick up those germs when they touch the animals or their surroundings. Most get sick by putting their hands or a contaminated object in their mouth or nose.

An estimated half-million people in the U.S. get sick every year because of a visit to animals at a fair, petting zoo, or other exhibit. Washington rules require signs warning people of the health risks, along with hand washing or sanitization stations near animal exhibits. Pregnant women, older adults, kids under five, and anyone who has an underlying illness should be especially careful to follow posted precautions.

Washing hands with running water and soap is the best way to avoid getting sick. It’s especially important after touching animals or their surroundings and before eating or drinking.

Children under five should be watched at all times while they visit animals to make sure they don’t put their hands or objects, like a pacifier, in their mouth while interacting with animals.

Stroller wheels can also pick up germs from animal areas and have been tied to illnesses in the past.

Call your health care provider immediately if someone in your family becomes sick after coming in contact with animals.

The Department of Health investigates cases and outbreaks of animal-related illnesses and works to make sure that places where animals are displayed follow state regulations. Information on staying healthy around animals is available online.

Photo courtesy of Christine Landis

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Don’t let foodborne illness ruin your summer picnic or barbecue – Department of Health

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hamburgerHot summer temperatures and meals served outside can be a recipe for illness if outdoor chefs don’t follow a few basic guidelines to keep outside eating healthy and safe.

“It’s harder to keep food at safe temperatures when it’s hot outside and we eat food away from home,” said Food Safety Program Manager Dave Gifford. “If you plan your picnic or barbecue so that food is stored and cooked at the correct temperatures and served safely, you can avoid food-related illnesses.”

Foodborne illnesses can range from mild nausea to a serious condition that requires medical attention.

Young children, the elderly, and people who have a weakened immune system are at higher risk to get severely ill.

Making sure you wash your hands thoroughly and often during food preparation is one of many ways to ensure that foods served outdoors are safe to eat.

State health officials also recommend storing ready-to-eat foods separately from raw meat to prevent contamination, preparing meat for barbecues at home using clean utensils, and washing fruits and vegetables before slicing and serving.

When packing for an outdoor picnic or barbecue, make sure to bring a food thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to a safe temperature; a cooler with plenty of ice to keep cold foods cold; and disposable wet-wipes, paper towels, and garbage bags for cleaning up.

Barbecued meat might look done, but only a food thermometer can show you if the food is safe. Recommended cooking temperatures:

  • Ground beef and hamburger – 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Hot dogs – 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Steaks and roasts – 145 Fahrenheit
  • Chicken breasts – 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Fish – 145 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pork – 160 degrees Fahrenheit

Food that has been kept chilled at 41 degrees or below and whole fruits, bakery items, chips, and unopened drinks can be used later. Throw away prepared food such as barbecued meat, salad, melon, and sandwiches that have been sitting out for more than two hours.

Extra food should be kept cold in a cooler that’s stored in the shade. Food left in a car, on a table, or in a picnic basket for more than two hours should be thrown out.

More barbecue and picnic food safety tips are available online.

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State warns warm weather raises raw oyster risks

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Puget Sound-NASAWashington State Department of Health warns that warm weather increases risk of food poisoning from shellfish taken from local waters:

Olympia – The warm air and water during summer can lead to bacteria that can grow in oysters — and people who love to eat raw oysters could get sick from them.

The Department of Health urges everyone who gathers shellfish from Washington waters to take a few basic steps to stay healthy while eating fresh shellfish during the summer season.

Warm temperatures are ideal for the natural bacteria known as Vibrio parahaemolyticus to multiply. Eating raw or undercooked shellfish – especially oysters containing vibrio bacteria – can make people sick.

“We have great shellfish in Washington and we want people to enjoy them – safely,” said Jerrod Davis, director of the agency’s Office of Shellfish and Water Protection. “By following some simple safety tips, including cooking oysters thoroughly, people can stay healthy this summer.”

People who dig or gather shellfish can protect themselves from illness by:

  • Know shellfish harvesting conditions before they go: call 1-800-562-5632 or check our clickable maps on the shellfish safety webpage to see if there are any beach closures for vibrio, biotoxins, or pollution.
  • Harvest shellfish from the beach as soon as possible after the tide recedes rather than waiting until after they’ve been exposed to the air for a long time.
  • Refrigerate or put shellfish on ice immediately after harvesting and keep them cold until they’re prepared and eaten.

Cooking shellfish just until the shells open is not enough to kill vibrio bacteria; shellfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds. Generally, keep cooking three to five minutes after the shells open when boiling, and four to nine minutes when steaming shellfish.

If you  eat undercooked or raw shellfish, symptoms of vibriosis – the illness caused by vibrio bacteria – usually appear within 12-24 hours of eating infected shellfish. Symptoms may include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills; they normally last from two to seven days.

For people with lowered immunity or chronic liver disease, vibriosis can be life-threatening. Antibiotic treatments, cancer therapies, and medications to treat heart conditions, diabetes, and acid reflux can cause a higher risk for serious illness. People who undergo these treatments or take these medications should never eat raw or undercooked shellfish.

State officials warn that cooking shellfish doesn’t prevent all illnesses. Biotoxins found in Washington waters aren’t destroyed by cooking. People who gather their own shellfish should always check the Shellfish Safety Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 or check the clickable map website to learn about closures or health warnings.

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Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Salmonella in eggs: An unwelcome summer visitor

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Photo by Sanja Gjenero

Photo by Sanja Gjenero

CDC Features

Eggs and summer go together: deviled eggs, homemade ice cream, and potato salad.

But, just a few hours outside of the refrigerator and your eggs can create lasting memories that you’d rather forget.

This summer, make sure that eggs carrying Salmonella don’t come to your next outing.

Summer is the perfect season for Salmonella, a germ that commonly causes foodborne illness–sometimes called food poisoning.

Warm weather and unrefrigerated eggs or food made from raw or undercooked eggs create ideal conditions for Salmonella to grow.

Many germs grow to high numbers in just a few hours at room temperature.

Although anyone can get Salmonella food poisoning, older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk for serious illness.

A person infected with Salmonella usually has a fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or beverage.

The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without antibiotic treatment. But, in rare cases, people become seriously ill.

In the United States, Salmonella infection causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other germ found in food, resulting in $365 million in direct medical costs annually.

Wondering if you haveSalmonella food poisoning?

salmonella on cultured human cells

Salmonella / CDC

See your doctor or healthcare provider if you have:

  • Diarrhea along with a temperature over 101.5°F
  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
  • Bloody stools
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as
    • Making very little urine
    • Dry mouth and throat, and
    • Dizziness when standing up

Salmonella can be sneaky

You can get Salmonella from perfectly normal-looking eggs. Salmonella can live on both the outside and inside of eggs that appear to be normal. Chicken feces on the outside of egg shells used to be a common cause of Salmonella contamination. To counter that, regulators in the 1970s put strict procedures into place for cleaning and inspecting eggs. Now, Salmonella is sometimes found on the inside of eggs; it gets there as the egg is forming.

Good news for egg lovers

Professionals from public health, government, and the food industry are continually working to reduce the risks of Salmonella in eggs. Here are just a few contributions made thus far:

Be proactive. Reduce your risk.

Did You Know?

Eating raw or undercooked eggs can be especially dangerous for young children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.

Salmonella can contaminate more than poultry and eggs. It sneaks its way into many foods—ground beef, pork, tomatoes, sprouts—even peanut butter. Here are six tips to make eggs and other foods safer to eat.

  1. Like other perishable foods, keep eggs refrigerated at or below 40° F (4° C) at all times. Buy eggs only from stores or other suppliers that keep them refrigerated.
  2. Discard cracked or dirty eggs.
  3. Do not keep eggs or other foods warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
  4. Refrigerate unused or leftover foods promptly.
  5. Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or lightly cooked unpasteurized eggs. Although restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe containing raw or lightly cooked eggs –such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing—ask to be sure.
  6. Consider buying and using shell eggs and egg products that are pasteurized. These are available for purchase from certain stores and suppliers.

 Photo of eggs courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

More Information

For more information about Salmonella, foodborne illness, and food safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, e-mail cdcinfo@cdc.gov, or visit these web sites:

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E. coli outbreak leads to expanded recall of frozen food products

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Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!The Washington State Department of Health is warning people that several types of frozen food products – Farm Rich, Market Day, and Schwan’s brands – have been recalled due to possible contamination with E. coli.

 

The products were distributed widely throughout Washington.

The recalls are related to a national E. coli outbreak that sickened 27 people from 15 states, including a Pierce County woman in her 20s.

“The foods in this recall were sent to stores throughout our state,” said Dave Gifford, Food Safety program manager. “E. coli can be very serious. We’re asking people to look at the recall list, check their freezers carefully, and throw out any of these products that they find.”

The type of E. coli in this outbreak is a strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121 (STEC O121), which is similar to E. coli O157:H7.

It can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. It can sometimes result in severe, life-threatening illness.

The recalled product list continues to expand and now includes several varieties of frozen snacks and mini-meal products.

The full list of the products currently covered by the recall is on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website; more info is on the Food Safety Program website.

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Healthy Monday Tip: Suds up for food safety

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healthy red cherry tomatoes with green stalkWashing fruits and vegetables before eating them reduces the risk of foodborne illness.

If fruits and veggies have a ridged or uneven skin, use a scrub brush to remove dirt from the grooves.

Remember, even produce with inedible skin should still be washed as a first step.

This week, get into the habit of washing all produce thoroughly before serving.

Be sure to start with clean hands and a sanitary work station.

 

About the Monday Campaigns:

The Healthy Monday Tips is produced by a national health promotion initiative called the Monday Campaigns.

The thinking behind the initiative derives from two studies done at the Center for a Liveable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health by Jullian Fry and Roni Neff.

In one study, they reviewed the scientific studies that looked at ways to get people to adopt healthy habits.

In that review, they found that one of the most effective ways to keep people on track is simply to remind them from time to time to stick to it.

But when would be the best time send those reminders?

Fry and Neff decided to look at Monday, which many of us consider the start of our week.

To better understand how we thought and felt about Monday, they reviewed the scientific literature as well as cultural references to Monday in movies, songs, books and other forms of art and literature, even video games.

They noted that a number of scientific studies have found that we may suffer more health problems on Monday. For example, a number of studies find that Americans have more heart attacks and strokes on Monday.

There is also evidence that we have more on-the-job injuries on Monday, perhaps because we are not quite back into the swing of things, or are still recovering from our weekend.

Fry and Neff also found that while many of us, facing the return to work, may dread Mondays, Monday is also seen as a day for making a fresh start.

Fry and Neff concluded that Monday might be a good day for promoting healthy habits. Calling attention to the health problems linked to the first day of the work week, such as heart attacks and on-the-job injuries, makes Monday a natural day to highlight the importance of prevention.

And the Monday’s reputation as a day to make a fresh start offers the opportunity to help people to renew their efforts to adopt healthier habits.

Fry and Neff’s findings are put into practice by the Monday Campaigns, which helps individuals and organizations use Monday as a focus for their health promotion efforts, providing free research, literature and artwork, and other support.

To learn more about Healthy Mondays:

 

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More than 24,000 Snohomish County residents earn food worker certification online

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At signA record 24,000 Snohomish County residents earned a food worker card through online training in 2012, compared to less than 5,000 who earned their cards in a classroom, Snohomish County health officials report.

A food worker card is required for anyone who:

  • Works with unpackaged food, such as in a restaurant or bar
  • Touches food equipment, such as washing dishes
  • Works at any surface where people put unwrapped food, including grocery store cashiers

The county began to offer the food worker card classes online in the spring of last year. The online course takes about one hour to go through the curriculum and take the test.

The popularity of the online course has reduced the need for in-person classes, officials said, so the Snohomish Health District plans to reduce the number of in-person classes to four a month in English and to one a month in Spanish next year. .

Starting January 1, Health District will offer four classes a month in English and one in Spanish at the Snohomish Health District auditorium in the Rucker Building, 3020 Rucker Ave., Everett.

  • The in-person classes in English will be offered the first and third Thursday of each month at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
  • The in-person classes in Spanish will be offered the first Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m.
  • In-person classes will no longer be offered in Lynnwood.

The online training program also provides instruction in Korean, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Closed Caption

The cost of the training and test for a food worker card remains at $10.

Food worker cards are good for three years and are valid anywhere in Washington state.

The Health District accepts cash only for the in-person classes, and Visa or MasterCard only for online classes.

Find details at http://www.snohd.org/Shd_EH/Eh_FLE/FoodWorker.aspx#foodOnline

To learn more about food safety classes and the food safety program, visit www.snohd.org, keyword search “Food Class.” Optionally, call 425.339.5260 to hear a list of class dates.

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Uncooked turkey in a pot

Turkey Time: Holiday food preparation tips from the CDC.

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Food safety tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Holidays are times we share the kitchen with family and friends. Make it a goal this year to also share good food safety practices. CDC is a partner with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is responsible for the safety of meat and poultry.

Here are simple tips that all cooks in the kitchen can follow this holiday season for cooking a delicious and safely prepared turkey.

Uncooked turkey in a pot

Turkey Basics: Safely Thaw, Prepare, Stuff, and Cook

When preparing a turkey, be aware of the four main safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing, and cooking to adequate temperature.

Safe Thawing

Food Thermometer Truths

  • Always use a food thermometer to guarantee that foods are cooked to a safe-to-eat temperature.
  • Some food thermometers must be calibrated to ensure that they read food temperature accurately. Find out if your thermometer can be calibrated by reading the USDA fact sheet on kitchen thermometers.
  1. Fill a pot of water with distilled water and bring to a rolling boil.
  1. Hold the thermometer probe in the boiling water for one minute. Do not let the probe touch the pot.
  1. After one minute, the thermometer should read between 210° and 214° F. If it does not read between these temperatures adjust the thermometer manually to 212° F. If the thermometer cannot be adjusted manually do not use it until it is serviced by a professional.

Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The “danger zone” is between 40 and 140°F — the temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly.

While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the “danger zone.”

There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven. For instructions, see “Safe Methods for Thawing;” instructions are also available in Spanish.

Safe Preparation

Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey.

If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods.

After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.

Safe Stuffing

For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer.

Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F, possibly resulting in foodborne illness.

Follow the FSIS’ steps to safely prepare, cook, remove, and refrigerate stuffingSpanish language instructions are available.

Safe Cooking

Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep.

Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary.

The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

For more information on safe internal temperatures, visit FoodSafety.gov’s Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures.

Following these cooking guidelines can help you prepare
a safe holiday dinner that everyone will enjoy.

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Small turtle from CDC

Salmonella outbreaks linked to pet turtles reported in 28 states

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Cases of Salmonella infections linked to contact with turtles have now been reported in 28 sates, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

To date, 149 cases have been reported across the country. Although there have been no deaths linked to the outbreak, 28 people have needed to be hospitalized.

Although there have been no cases yet reported in Washington state, Department of Health officials has issued an alert and is urging parents to teach children how to more safely handle turtles, other reptiles and amphibians, all of which can carry the bacteria:

Snakes, lizards, frogs, and toads commonly carry Salmonella bacteria, even if the animals appear healthy. Their droppings can contain the bacteria, and people who handle the animals or touch their environments can be exposed.

Young children are at highest risk for becoming ill because they’re less likely to wash their hands and they touch their mouths more often. Young children are also more likely to have more serious health consequences from salmonellosis.

Turtles and amphibians should be kept out of homes, childcare settings, schools, and other places where there are children under 5 years old.

Turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size should not be purchased as pets or given as gifts.

Both federal and state law ban the sale of small turtles with shells less than four inches long, and pet stores and other turtle vendors are required to give written information to buyers about disease risks.

People who see small turtles for sale should not buy them, and should report such sales to the Department of Health at 877-485-7316

Salmonella facts from the CDC:

Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment.

However, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.

In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

To learn more:

PHOTO: CDC


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Toll-free hotline provides shellfish safety information

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Vibrio parahaemolyticus - Janice Carr/CDC

Warmer summer weather can increase levels of bacteria found in shellfish, such as Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vibrio), which can make you sick, state health officials warn.

An infection with the vibrio, or vibriosis, can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills.

Symptoms usually appear within 12-24 hours after eating infected shellfish and usually last from two to seven days.

For people with lowered immunity or chronic liver disease, vibriosis can be life threatening.

Before gathering shellfish, call Washington state’s toll-free, Biotoxin Hotline (1-800-562-5632) or check the state’s shellfish safety website to see if there are any beach closures for vibrio, biotoxins, or pollution.

Also at increased risk are people who take medication to reduce stomach acid, heart or diabetes medication, or have had recent antibiotic treatment or cancer therapies; these people should not eat raw or undercooked shellfish, health officials said.

“Vibriosis is completely preventable,” said Jerrod Davis, director of the Department of Health’s Office of Shellfish and Water Protection. “We want people to enjoy our state’s wonderful shellfish, and following some simple safety tips can help keep people healthy this summer.”

Cooking shellfish until the shells just open is not enough to kill Vibrio bacteria. Shellfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F for at least 15 seconds.

As a general guideline:

  • If boiling, continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes after shells open.
  • If steaming, continue to cook for 4 to 9 minutes after shells open.

In addition to monitoring for Vibrio the Department of Health monitors for biotoxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP), and diarrehtic shellfish poisoning (DSP) that have also been found in Washington waters.

These biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking. People who eat shellfish contaminated with biotoxins can become seriously ill or even die. A person cannot tell if the toxin is present by looking at the water or the shellfish.

Biotoxins such as PSP, also known as “red tide,” can only be detected by laboratory testing.

People who are harvesting shellfish can protect themselves from illness:

  • Before gathering shellfish in the state people should call the state’s toll-free, Biotoxin Hotline (1-800-562-5632) or check Washington’s shellfish safety website to see if there are any beach closures for vibrio, biotoxins, or pollution.
  • Harvest shellfish from the beach as soon as possible after the tide recedes.
  • Don’t harvest shellfish that have been exposed to the sun for more than two hours.
  • Refrigerate or put shellfish on ice immediately after harvest.
  • Cook shellfish to an internal temperature of 145°F for 15 seconds.

PHOTO: Vibrio parahaemolyticus – Janice Carr/CDC

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